Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
Reminder: Fast of Saint Martin began on November 12. See Rule and Constitutions for regulations. All those at Novice 3 level and above are to fast as the Rule and Constitutions prescribe. Those not yet at this level should joyfully undertake a daily sacrifice of their choice in order to observe the penitential spirit of this holy season leading up to the great feast of Christmas.
TRUISM: Five by Five Rule: If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it.
Help Wanted: Now Hiring People That Show Up
Walmart had to remove 50,000 milk cartons from their store. The labels have to be changed from "Open here" to "Open at home."
Store Sign: We do not have Wi-Fi. Talk to each other. Pretend it's 1995.
Have you ever noticed that all instruments searching for intelligent life are pointed away from earth?
I made a huge To-Do list for today. I just can't figure out who's going to do it.
CFP NATIVITY SCENE ON LAWN IN FRONT OF ANNUNCATION WOMEN'S VOCATION DISCERNMENT HOUSE
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
s they had been told. (Luke 2: 8-20)
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2: 8-20)
A Blessed Remainder of Advent and Joyous Christmas to You All! Let us pray for one another and for our world.
NO GREATER LOVE: THE CHRIST, THE CROSS, AND US
An important milestone as the Lord journeys to Jerusalem on His way to His Death and Resurrection is His question to the disciples concerning who He is. In Chapter nine of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict discusses the question, Peter’s answer, and the Lord’s reaction to Peter’s answer.
All three Synoptic Gospels present Jesus' question to the disciples about who the people think he is and who they themselves consider him to be (Mk 8:27-30; Mt 16:13-20; Lk 9:18-21) as an important milestone on his way. In all three Gospels, Peter answers in the name of the Twelve with a confession that is markedly different from the opinion of the "people." In all three Gospels. Jesus then foretells his Passion and Resurrection, and continues this announcement of his own destiny with a teaching about the way of discipleship, the way to follow him, the Crucified. In all three Gospels, however, he also interprets this "following" on the way of the Cross from an essentially anthropological standpoint: It is the indispensable way for man to ''lose his life," without which it is impossible for him to find it (Mk 8:31-9:1; Mt 16:21-28; Lk 9:22-27).
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples “Who do men say that I am?” (Mk 8:27) They told him “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” (Mk 8:28) These were all men who were inspired by God to speak His message to the people of Israel and Judah.
Soon after this on Palm Sunday, the Lord entered Jerusalem and was indeed hailed as a Prophet and King by the crowd. The Lord knew that the crowds knew something about Him, but they did not really know Him.
He then asks the disciples, who were much closer to Him than the crowds, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mk 8:29) Peter gives the answer of the disciples “You are the Christ.” (Mk 8:29) “The Christ” was not just a prophet who spoke for God or a King who ruled justly. He was the One anointed by God.
The Mission given by God to Jesus was unique to Him and not just one more stage of God speaking to His People. The crowds were correct in calling Jesus a Prophet and King, but He is much more than that. The Lord then tells the disciples to not tell anyone that He was the Christ. (Mk 8:30)
The question remains, however, what is the Mission of the Christ? The answer comes immediately: “And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.” (Mk 8:31-32)
Even though Jesus told the disciples “plainly” what was to happen, Peter still did not understand the mission of God’s Anointed One (The Christ). “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Mt 16:22) Peter acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, but he could not accept the mission which was given to the Lord by His Father. Jesus then has to rebuke Peter. “Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Mk 8:33)
People want to do things their own way rather than God’s way. Suffering, rejection, and the Cross are not what humans want to embrace. The Lord knew that He had to be faithful to the plan of His Father and not the plans of men.
This also explains why Jesus commanded his disciples to tell no one at that time that He was the Christ. If his close disciple, Peter, could not understand His Mission, how could the crowds of people understand it? The disciples could not really even start to understand the Lord until after His Crucifixion and Resurrection. He told them what was to happen, but they did not understand. They had to actually see the Lord die and rise on the third day. Even then they needed to receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday to even begin to preach the Gospel.
What does the Lord’s Mission to suffer, die, and rise again have to do with us? He immediately gives us the answer. “And he called to him the multitude with his disciples and said to them, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’” (Mk 8:34-38)
Here, the Lord is talking about “life” in two different senses, our life in this world, which will sooner or later come to an end, and eternal life with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must not be ashamed of following the moral teachings of His Church and doing whatever He is specifically calling us to do.
To do what the Lord demands of us can indeed be a “cross” and even a loss of “life”. The Lord tells us that what we need to go through to follow Him is nothing compared to real eternal Life. The world tells us that we need to focus on the happiness and power of this life, and as long as we are a “good” person, the next life will take care of itself. Jesus denies this. The world is ashamed of Jesus and wants to tame Him to conform to the needs of the world. This is probably why many reject Him openly or in practice since they are unwilling to do what He demands of us.
John’s Gospel does not relate the Lord’s question to the disciples or Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. John’s Gospel contains the same three elements as is found in the other three Gospels: 1. The Glory of Jesus 2. He must die and rise again 3. We must also die to ourselves so that we can rise to Eternal Life.
Right after the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, (Jn 12:12-17) when He was being hailed as a great prophet and king, some Greeks (Gentiles who honored the God of Israel) asked the Apostle Philip if they could see Jesus. Philip found the Apostle Andrew and they both go to Jesus to tell Him what the Greeks wanted.
However, the Lord does not go to speak with the Greeks. He, instead, tells Andrew and Philip “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (Jn 12:23-26)
Why doesn’t Jesus speak with the Greeks? Probably for the same reason that told the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ. (Mt 16:20, Mk 8:30, Lk 9:21) The Jews who were not His close disciples, and the Gentiles (in this case, the Greeks) could not really make a decision whether or not to follow Jesus until after His death and Resurrection. Before that, He was perhaps a great moral teacher, prophet, and miracle worker, but nothing more. After the Resurrection both Jews and Gentiles had to make a decision one way or the other about Him and whether they would follow Him.
The Lord ultimately demands a decision of us. The close linkage between His status as the Anointed Son of God, His death and Resurrection, and His demand that we take up our cross and die to ourselves in order to truly follow him requires of us something which some may consider to be impossible for us to give. Some do refuse to really follow Him since they believe He is demanding too much. Yet what He asks of us is not impossible since innumerable Christians have been giving Him everything, including their lives in martyrdom, for almost 2000 years. How can they do this?
The Lord does not only make demands on us, He also gives us the means to fulfill those demands. He does this through the sacraments administered by His Church. True, the Church is made up of human beings whose sinfulness can drive us away from Christ. We cannot let human evil keep us from the graces we need to truly follow Jesus Christ and do whatever He wants of us no matter how difficult.
The question still remains: Why should we die to ourselves in order to follow Him? We need to remember that His suffering and death on the Cross was not the end of the story. He rose in glory on Easter Sunday. His Life in the world ended on Good Friday, but His Resurrection showed that this was not the end for He now sits at the Right Hand of the Father. The same is true for us.
St. Paul tells us “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful --- for he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:11-13) St. Paul probably wrote this just before his own death as a martyr. St. Paul chose to remain faithful. Will we do the same? -- Jim Nugent, CFP
FOLLOWING FRANCIS: FOLLOWING CHRIST:
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS CRIB AS TOLD IN FRANCESCO: A STORY OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI
The following is a chapter with its notes from Francesco: A Story of Saint Francis of Assisi by Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP (Pauline Books 2022).
The book is available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803) or online at cfpholyangels.com Cost 29.95 (two dollars less than retail price) plus free shipping. Special Christmas Offer: When ordering on line or by postal mail, include the code FRAN5 and save $5 off the price of this book. This offer also applies to Chiara: A Story of Saint Clare of Assisi and Antonio: A Story of Saint Anthony of Padua. Good through 2022. The three books together provide a history of the Franciscan movement as seen through the eyes of those who lived it.
Highly researched with documented notes, these books not only teach but also inspire. Unforgettable gifts that can change lives.
Messer Giovanni di Velita
Cave, Greccio (December 25, 1223)
With his gray, woolen cap brushing the ceiling of this cave, Messer Giovanni di Velita pressed his tall, lanky body against the cave’s wall. Standing here in his simple, undyed woolen mantle and tunic, Giovanni was a marked contrast to his richly dressed, plump wife Madonna Alticama. She was cradling their well-bundled infant son, Arturo. Three beings in a mass of reverent neighbors, vassals, servants, and Poor Brothers, enjoying the warmth of this torchlit cavern.
Fifteen days ago, just after Giovanni had granted permission to two of his servants to marry, Fra Francesco had been ushered into the lord’s chamber at the Velita house. “Messer Giovanni,” he had said, “the birthday of our Lord approaches. Would you want to celebrate together in Greccio?”
Celebrate with Fra Francesco? Giovanni barely restrained his eagerness. “Sì!”
“Sì!” Francesco’s voice was exuberant. Giovanni imagined him grinning under that outlandish hood.
“You own Monte Lacerone, Messer?”
“Sì.” That mountain of sheer rock walls, cliffs, and caves towered behind and above Greccio. He hunted there. He kept in check the robbers who hid there. Years ago, his servants had carved out of the rocks a locus for the Poor Brothers. Giovanni knew Monte Lacerone well.
“Some believe that the stable in which our Lord was born was a cave,” Francesco declared.
Giovanni hadn’t known that. But where was this conversation headed?
“I wish to enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he rested on hay.”
Before Giovanni could express his confusion, Francesco began to explain.
“I need a cave, an ox and ass, a manger, straw. Big enough for Fra Leone to offer Christmas Mass. Will you help me, Messer?”
“You want me to find a large cave on Monte Lacerone, bring an ox and ass to it, and make it look like the stable where our Savior was born?”
“Sì!” The hood bobbed up and down. "But not a cave of the brothers. Another one. A wild one."
“Not a cave my servants made? One made by God?”
Giovanni felt tingly with joy. “Might you permit our little Arturo to represent the Holy Child?”
“Ah, Messer. I don't wish to disappoint you. The manger must be empty. Everyone must see the Babe as their own. The Holy Spirit will show the Child to those whom He chooses.”
Thus, the next day, Giovanni and a servant were exploring the natural caves on Monte Lacerone. Goodness, there were many. All unsuitable. Too small. Too inaccessible. Too narrow.
Lord, help us! Giovanni had prayed.
And sure enough, He did. About a half hour’s walk northeast from the Poor Brothers’ locus, Giovanni and his servant found a natural cavern in the side of a cliff. It was accessible. Big enough. Tall enough. In it stood a boulder with an impression in its center. The manager!
Grazie, my Lord!
Grazie, indeed, for now all was as Francesco had requested.
With torchlight illuminating their exultant faces, the Poor Brothers, pressed against the cave wall directly across from Giovanni and Alticama, began to sing. The crowd, most of whom Giovanni knew, joined them. Music swelled the night.
In his thirty years of life, Giovanni had never recognized the hand of God at work so much as he did now. His gaze went to Fra Francesco, standing to the side of Fra Leone. Through Francesco, he realized, God has changed my life.
The singing ceased. In silence, Leone, followed by Francesco, incensed the altar, then led the crowd in the Sign of the Cross and began the prayers of the Mass.
Giovanni blessed himself and tried to fix his attention on the mysteries happening before him, but his mind wandered to the mysteries of his own life. How he had been a blustery, stylish knight, thinking no more about his soul than about his dinner, until Francesco had come to Greccio—was it ten years ago? Giovanni couldn’t remember exactly when he decided to relinquish his sword and lavish wardrobe and become a Brother of Penance. Alticama accepted his decision but felt no call to join him. God was leading her by a different path.
Leone was quietly offering the prayers of the Mass. Francesco was softly responding.
The instant he had come to Greccio, Francesco had brought peace. At that time, wolves and hailstorms, both rumored to originate on distant Monte Terminillo, had plagued the city. Francesco had addressed these in a sermon. “To the praise and honor of God,” he had said, “I tell you that, if each one of you turns away from sin and turns to God with the whole heart, firm resolve, and will to persevere, I trust our Lord Jesus Christ that, in His mercy, He will soon deliver you from the scourge of the wolves and of the hail from which, for a long time, you have been suffering. He will make you grow and increase in both spiritual and temporal things. I also tell you if you return to your vomit, this scourge and pestilence will return, and more and worse disasters will afflict you.”
Taking his words to heart, Greccio had ceased quarreling and backbiting. Then the hailstorms ceased; the wolves disappeared.
Francesco was singing the Gospel about Christ’s birth. From this weak, diminutive man swelled such a powerful, melodious, clear voice that even those outside the cave could surely understand every word.
Then Francesco began to preach, the gold of his deacon’s vestments shimmering in the torchlight. His voice was strong and clear. "Il Bambino di Betlemme," he called the Christ Child. The way Francesco drew out the words were nudging some deep memory. The third time Francesco sweetly called out "Betlemme," Giovanni remembered the lambs at birthing time, bleating for their mothers. Betlemme, on Francesco’s lips, sounded like that bleating. The Lamb of God was born in Betlemme.
Francesco’s preaching swelled into a powerful, resonant lauda throbbing with love.
“Exult in God our help!
Shout to the Lord God living and true with cries of gladness!
Because the Lord, the Most High,
the Awesome, is the Great King over all the earth.”
Giovanni felt as if he were surrounded by praising angels as Francesco sang near the manger. When he spoke of Jesus, it was as if he were tasting the words, savoring their sweetness.
“Because the Most Holy Father of heaven, our King before all ages,
sent His Beloved Son from on high
and He was born of the Blessed Virgin Holy Mary.
He called me: You are my Father
and I will place Him, my firstborn, as the Highest,
above all the kings of the earth.
On that day the Lord sent His mercy
and at night His song.”
Francesco’s voice rose as he stooped over the manger. Suddenly Giovanni saw, resting in the manager, a tiny child sleeping so soundly that he appeared dead.
“This is the day the Lord has made
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
For the Most Holy Child has been given to us
and has been born for us on the way
and placed in a manger
because he did not have a place in the inn.”
Giovanni seemed to see Francesco wake the child, pick him up, and kiss him tenderly. Arturo! No. Not Arturo. Jesus.
Giovanni’s eyes welled with tears. Francesco had not wanted anyone to represent a human being in this holy tableau. He had wanted each person to find himself or herself in the scene. What was the phrase that Francesco had written several years ago in a letter to the penitents? It was often read at the monthly gathering of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance: “We are mothers when we carry Him in our heart and body through a divine love and a pure and sincere conscience and give birth to Him through a holy activity, which must shine as an example before others.”
The impression of the Holy Child was gone. Francesco was singing again.
“And peace on earth to those of good will.
Let the heavens rejoice and the earth exult,
let the fields and all that is in them be joyful.
Sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
Because the Lord is great and worthy of praise
He is awesome beyond all gods.
Give to the Lord, you families of nations,
give to the Lord glory and praise,
give to the Lord the glory due His name.”
The song faded into silence. Giovanni could hear the ox chewing its cud.
Francesco spoke, his voice powerful in its plea.
“Take up your bodies and carry His holy cross
And follow His most holy commands even to the end.”
Then he took his place at the altar, Leone rose, and the Holy Mass continued. As befitted a penitent brother, and according to his Rule of Life, Giovanni received the Body of the Lord from Leone’s hands and the Blood of the Lord from the chalice offered by Francesco. Il Bambino di Betlemme, the Man of miracles and preaching, the Lord of the Cross and the Resurrection, had come to him, was dwelling in him. One Lord. The Prince of Peace. Born in a stable like the one Giovanni had re-created.
To that Lord, he prayed. You have given me life. You have given me everything. I give all back to you. Grazie, my God.
1C (first book, chapter X) [First Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano] records how Francesco, with the help of Greccio’s lord (Giovanni di Velita) devised a live Nativity scene in a cave on Monte Lacerone, and how a bystander (named as Giovanni in later histories) saw Francesco awaken the Christ Child.
Leonard von Matt and Walter Houser (Saint Francis of Assisi, p. 65) state that Giovanni was “a tertiary who knew the Saint’s love of solitude.”
A local tradition around Greccio names Alticama as Giovanni’s wife.
Francesco’s words about wolves and hail are found in AC (chapter VII) [The Assisi Compilation]. His song at the Nativity Mass is found in his Office of the Passion (Vespers of the Lord’s Birth). As he often did, Francesco pieced together phrases from the Psalms to create his own praises and prayers. His words in the letter Giovanni remembers are found in his Earlier Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.
We do not know the name of the priest who offered the Christmas Mass at Greccio.
Giovanni’s remains are kept in an ossuary in the chapel next to the cave where the Christmas Mass took place.
CFP PHOTO ALBUM: REST IN PEACE, JOSEPH MATOSE IV, CFP AFFILIATE
Joseph Matose IV, CFP Affiliate, died of Covid, complicated by Parkinson’s Disease, on October 27, 2022.
A generous and talented artist, Joe gave away many of his drawings, prints, and booklets (one shown here with his photo). The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop has much of his art work for sale.
Joe also painted a large, impressionistic painting of the Blessed Sacrament which will hang in the chapel of Guadalupe Men’s Vocation Discernment House once the house is renovated.
That may be viewed on the first page of the website at www.1000priests.org
Before contracting Parkinson’s Disease, Joe had expressed an interest in moving to Fort Wayne from Rhode Island and living at Guadalupe House. Even though that never happened, he supported Guadalupe House with his donations and also supported the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop through his gift purchases.
The CFP will dedicate a bedroom at Guadalupe House in Joe’s memory. Any donations toward that are much appreciated and can be mailed to the CFP (checks made out to CFP Renovations Fund) at 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA.
While Joe's funeral Mass was held in Rhode Island, Father Dan Koehl, spiritual assistant for Guadalupe House, celebrated a Mass for Joe at CFP Headquarters on November 26. A luncheon followed in Joe's memory.
God bless you all for your prayers for our brother Joe.